Most of us know very little about Antarctica and its wildlife, but these fascinating facts will help you discover this mysterious continent from the comfort of your home. Here are 15 facts about Antarctica and its wildlife that will leave you speechless:

1. All life in Antarctica depends on the ice around the continent.

Ice sheets in Antarctica

Photo: Audun Dahl

2. If Antarctica’s ice sheet melted, the world’s oceans would rise by 60 to 65 meters.

Ice in Antarctica

Photo: Audun Dahl

3. Penguins can dive to a depth of over 250 meters, although most dives will be within 10 meters below the surface. The deepest dive ever recorded was by a female emperor penguin, who dove to a depth of 535 meters!

group of Penguins

Photo: Audun Dahl

4. Snowy sheathbills are Antarctica’s vultures. They scavenge around in the penguin colonies.

Antarctica’s birds

Photo: Audun Dahl

5. The fastest species of penguin is the gentoo penguin, which can swim up to 35 km/h (22 mph).

Antarctica penguin

Photo: Audun Dahl

6. Albatrosses spend over 80% of their life at sea, visiting land only for breeding.

Antarctica albatross

Photo: Audun Dahl

7. Many bird species have adapted to flying by having hollow bones, whereas penguins have dense bones, which makes diving easier.

Cute penguin

Photo: Audun Dahl

8. According to Audubon, The brown Antarctic skua “forages at sea […] and often steals food from other seabirds […] It also feeds on the eggs and young of penguins, and on carrion around penguin colonies.”

Brown skua

Photo: Audun Dahl

9. Penguins eat a variety of seafood including fish, squid, and crustaceans. The smaller penguins usually feed on krill. Because they eat so much seafood, penguins need to be able to cope with the high amount of salt they ingest. They have a gland located just above their eyes called the supraorbital gland, which filters salt from their bloodstream. This is then excreted through the bill, or by sneezing!

Antarctica penguin

Photo: Audun Dahl

10. Climate change affects the number of krill, threatening penguins’ lives. Since the 1970s, krill density in some areas has decreased by 80%.

Penguins eat krill

Photo: Audun Dahl

11. Leopard seals can live up to 26 years in the wild.

Seals in Antarctica

Photo: Audun Dahl

12. Fossil records show that there were at least 25 species of penguin and some were larger than the emperor penguins. One species, known by the scientific name of Anthopornis nordenskjoldi, was 170 cm tall!

Penguins in Antarctica

Photo: Audun Dahl

13. Weddell seals are impressive divers — they can dive to a depth of 600 meters and spend as long as 82 minutes under water.

Weddell seals in Antarctica

Photo: Audun Dahl

14. Penguins have a lifespan up to 60 years, depending on species.

Penguins in Antarctica

Photo: Audun Dahl

15. When a leopard seal grows tired of eating, but still wants to be entertained, they’ll seek out penguins or young seals to play “cat and mouse” with.

Seal in Antarctica

Photo: Audun Dahl

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